Eastern Conference Trade Deadline Winnersby Garrett Brooks March 26, 2021 1 comment
The NBA trade deadline passed yesterday afternoon following an avalanche of trades made in the final hours of the NBA’s trade season. Both conferences in the association saw contenders get stronger and sellers get weaker. The focus right now will be on the eastern conference winners at the deadline.
Winners are not limited to teams that got better. In some cases, rebuilding teams win big as they sell to the buyers in the market. That happened in the eastern conference as you will soon know more about. Additionally, the east is home to the biggest deadline winner in the league, which just so happens to be a contending team.
It was not difficult to find the winners of the east. These three teams stand out well above the rest in terms of winning at the deadline. These are the teams that without a doubt took big steps towards where they want to go, whether that be on the way to rebuilding or en route to improved play immediately.
Eastern Conference Deadline Winner: Orlando Magic
The Magic were widely acknowledged as a team that would make sizeable moves ahead of the trade deadline Thursday but no one expected the level of roster reconstruction we saw from Orlando. Aaron Gordon was a given to be moved, which he was. It didn’t appear the Magic were too eager to sell on other players, though. That was not the case we all know now.
The Magic not only shipped Gordon out but also moved on from Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic came first and was the move that sent shockwaves through the league. His trade will be discussed further later on, right now is about the total sum of the trades made by the Magic. When the dust settled, Orlando sent out a sizeable amount of NBA talent. In return, they got young players, draft capital and cap filler.
On the face that won’t sound like a great deal for the Magic. In reality, it was desperately needed for the franchise to begin on a path toward relevancy. For years they lingered in the middle of the eastern conference standings, inevitably losing in the opening round of the playoffs and missing out on the draft lottery. It took some time but they finally committed to moving their most ready-to-produce players with an eye toward the future.
Among the promising assets they acquired at the deadline were two first-round draft picks from the Chicago Bulls, rookie guard R.J. Hampton, a future first from the Denver Nuggets and former Bulls big man Wendell Carter Jr. These players or in some cases eventual players all will be added around a promising group of young players the Magic already have in place.
That group includes Markelle Fultz, Jonathan Isaac and Cole Anthony. The Magic now have flexibility and assets moving forward and will be able to structure their team from the ground up as their roster grows together. The most exciting part of what they added could very well be rookie guard R.J. Hampton.
Hampton has a ton of upside and was one of the potential steals of last year’s NBA Draft. The Nuggets were wise to add him to their backcourt rotation and can now see what he can do while also evaluating players like Fultz and Anthony.
Eastern Conference Deadline Winner: Chicago Bulls
One of the teams that did some business with the Magic comes in next as the Chicago Bulls are among the eastern conferences’ biggest deadline winners. They set the tone for the day early with the deal they struck with the Magic. That added Nikola Vucevic to a Bulls roster lacking offense outside of all-star guard Zach LaVine.
No one really knew what direction the Bulls would go in. They made it quite clear early how they would be handling business and Bulls fans are rightfully excited. They now feature two of the top offensive players at their respective positions along with other talented players like Thaddeus Young. The price paid can certainly be viewed as hefty as it’s never easy giving away multiple first-round picks.
It worked for the Bulls, though. The team is more talented than their record but had issues fitting together as a group. LaVine needed support and he now has a teammate that offers more support than he ever could have imagined.
This is a statement move by the Bulls front office, as well. The goal is to win games and that’s what is expected. They aren’t going to bottom out to acquire high draft picks when they have very good players on the current roster. For the first time in a long time, it feels like they have a direction.
They followed up the blockbuster trade by making some savvy moves. First was buy low addition Troy Brown Jr. that only cost the Bulls players they were ready to move on from already. Those players were Daniel Gafford and Chandler Hutchison. Like Brown Jr., both were in need of a change of scenery.
To wrap it all up, though, the Bulls made one of the most underrated moves of the day. They added Daniel Theis from the Boston Celtics. Theis will backup Vucevic and could see minutes next to him. He also fills a huge need for Chicago. Suddenly the Bulls have made a weakness a potential strength in their center rotation.
Eastern Conference Deadline Winner: Miami Heat
The standalone, hands-down biggest winners in the eastern conference happened to be the team that represented them in the NBA Finals last year. Yes, the Miami Heat did that well. That’s not even including the previous deal they made to bring in Trevor Ariza. The Ariza deal only adds to things.
Instead, we’re looking at the additions of Nemanja Bjelica and Victor Oladipo. In order to get them, the Heat simply didn’t have to give up that much. That’s especially true when you consider the roles the Heat were asking of the players they traded away prior to these deals. Each and every one of them is without a doubt replaceable for the Heat and in return they gain a very nice role player and a former All-Star looking to earn a long-term contract.
No disrespect to the players the Heat shipped out, either. This is instead a compliment to how well the team is run. Players such as Moe Harkless, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk would hold more value to almost any other team but the Heat moved them all without second-guessing any of it. As they should have, too.
The Heat now have one of the most interesting teams to potentially get in the way of the Nets in the eastern conference. In addition to their long list of versatile defenders that are playing under a great coach the Heat also bring a lot of versatility to the offensive end of the floor. Like last year they will be no easy opponent come playoff time.
They aren’t done yet, either. It’s expected they are going to make a splash in the buy-out market to round out their roster. No team in the entire NBA increased their ceiling as the Heat did at the deadline.